Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue(BIRD)

‘Ashirwad’ 7, 4th Cross, HRBR Second Block,
Kalyan Nagar, Bangalore 560 043
Tel. 080 25455717

We believe that the religious attitude is a thing of permanent value to mankind, individually and collectively; and consider it, wherever it is found, deserving of reverent recognition. Amidst the conflicting claims made on behalf of different religions, all of which have sprung from this common attitude, we believe there is an urgent need for a full and free exchange of our differing religious experiences, in a spirit of mutual respect, appreciation and sympathy
We believe that such an interchange of experiences will lead to an enrichment of one another’s religious life; mutual respect, understanding and tolerance; and
co-operation in purifying and strengthening the religious attitude of mind as against the irreligious or materialistic attitude from which our personal, social and national problems have to be tackled.
We also believe in sharing our deepest convictions with one another, but sharing them on a basis of equality, of genuine respect for and acceptance of the validity of each other’s faith. Such a sharing demands earnestness, both in holding one’s own faith and in seeking to understand another’s. For we get nowhere if we meet on a basis of indifference to all faiths.
The Initiative provides an element of newness in the relationship between religions when it openly and unreservedly asserts that there is no monopoly in religious truth, that the followers of the different religions can help each other best by each being true to one’s understanding of the Truth, and that we can all grow together into an ever-deepening and widening understanding of, and approximation to, Truth.
We realize that any attempt to weaken the hold of the truth of any religion upon mankind is to weaken religion itself. Therefore we strive not to weaken but to strengthen each other by mutual respect, trust and co-operation.
We seek to help one another more fully to understand and live up to the best in all religions.
The Initiative invites people of all faiths to share through it the richness of their various religious traditions and experiences in this adventure of spirit and support of one another in the struggle for social justice, identifying themselves as closely as they are able with the oppressed and the disinherited, and treating all human beings as brothers and sisters.

In order that each may bring into this Initiative the very best that he/she can, we desire to explore fully the value of our religious traditions and disciplines and present them for the benefit of all. But we do not desire to persuade any one within the Initiative to our own religious belief and practice.
We are convinced that only through Inter- Religious dialogue can we diffuse the recurring tension between religious groups and communities in our country and that the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue will be able to provide a platform for addressing those issues which are the causes for tension and resentment.
The Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) is a little lamp to signify that whatever the darkness, however profound the sense of loss, the light of God’s love – be it Ram, Allah or Jesus - and the clarity of their enlightenment still shines, and will continue to shine, for those who have eyes to see, a heart to love and a soul to believe.



The following are the names and addresses of the prominent members of the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) who regularly meet to iron out differences and chalk out programmes aimed at dispelling fears and misunderstandings between religious communities. A short report of activities and achievements of BIRD too is given below.
Hindu representatives
Prof. Upendra Shenony, Keshava Shilpa, Kempegowdanagar, Bangalore 560 019 Tel. 6612732
Mr. Y.K. Raghavendra, Advocate, No.203, 28th Cross-, 7th Block, Jayanagar 560 0082. Tel 6647626
Mr. Chandrashekar Bhandary, 74, Ranga Rao Road, Shankarpuram, Bangalore 560 004, Phone 6610081
Prof. V.Yagneshwara Somayajulu, 4011, I ‘A’ Main, 7th Cross, Gayathrinagar, Bangalore 560 021 Tel. 3322729
Mr. V.A.Gopala, Keshavashilpa, K.G.Nagar, Bangalore 560 019, mobile 98440-50711.
Mr.Om Prakash, Manager, New York Life Insurance, MG Road, Bangalore 560 001
Mr. Bala Kumar, Chief Executive, Tycho-healthcare, ITPL, Whitefield, Bangalore
Christian representatives
Sister Pauline Chakkalakal, dsp, Daughters of St.Paul, 18, Albert Street, Richmond Town, Bangalore 560 025, Tel. 2210787
Rev. Dr. M.J. Joseph, Director, Ecumenical Christian Centre, PB 11, Whitefield P.O., Bangalore 560 066 Tel 8452270
Fr. Dr. Mathew Vattathara, Dharmaram College, Hosur Road, Bangalore 560 029, Tel. 5536781
Rev. Dr. J. Jayakiran Sebastian, Associate Professor, United Theological College, 63 Miller’s Road, Bangalore 560 046 Tel. 3330502 e-mail
Dr. Ken Gnanakan, ACTS Ministries, Koramangala, Tel 5531024/5532516
Fr. (Dr. Albert Nambiaparambil, Director, UPASANA, Thodupuzha 685 584, Kerala, Tel. 0486-223286 e-mail:
Mr. Noel Noronha, President, Basel Mission Christian Association, 70/33-34, II Cross, CSI Compound, Bangalore 560 027 Tel 2220600
Mr.E.Edward David, 52 D’Costa Layout, Cooke Town, Bangalore 560 084, Tel. 5476041 e-mail
Mr. John V. Yesudas, No. 78, Joe Villa, ERA Road, Ejipura, Viveknagar, Bangalore 560 047, Tel. 5713093
Dr. Thomas George, Ashville, 9 Asoka Road, St. Thomas Town, Bangalore 560 084, Tel. 5476265
P.N.Benjamin, B-1, Lan Castle, 186 Wheeler Road Extn,
Bangalore 560 084, Tel. 25800647 e-mail:
Fr. Dr. Mathew Chandrankunnel, Registrar, Dharmaram Vidyasketra, Hosur Road, Bangalore

Muslim Representative
Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan, 18, 1st C Main Road, Gangenahalli Extn, Bangalore,
560 032. Tel. 3333217
Mr. Siddharth, Peepal Tree, Tel. 080 5354436

The following is a brief report about our activities so far.
Samartha Memorial Lecture
On 7th October 2001, BIRD organized the first Rev. Dr. Stanley Samartha Memorial Lecture at the Bishop Cotton Boys’ School. Francois Gautier delivered the lecture on "the Need for Inter-Religious Dialogue". More than 500 invitees attended. Among them were a large number of VHP-RSS-BJP activists as well as disciples of Guru Sri. Sri. Ravishankar. They were surprised to learn that there ever lived a Christian thinker like Dr. Samartha – "the Christian prophet of religious pluralism" as Francois Gautier has described him.
Immediately after the lecture, the Hindu leaders expressed their desire to enter into dialogue with Christians and the first meeting took place at the Dharmaram Vidya Shektra (Catholic Theological University) in the last week of October. Since then we have been meeting each other regularly once a month and also on special occasions at the RSS headquarters and the Bible Society of India’s central office in Bangalore.
In November 2001 BIRD participated at the national dialogue between Christian spiritual leaders and RSS leaders at Aluva, Kerala.
Meeting with RSS leaders
Christian members of BIRD were invited to the RSS camp held in Bangalore. They met top-ranking national leaders of the RSS, including Shri. Sudarshan, on 26 January 2002 and discussed problems faced by the Christians. (Press reports enclosed). BIRD coordinator invited the RSS leaders to hold the next round of national level talks with Christian leaders in Bangalore on 22 March 2002.
Panel discussion
A panel discussion on "the scope for dialogue between RSS and Christians" was held on 13 Feb. It was addressed among others by Mr.H.T. Sangliana, police commissioner, Mr. Francois Gautier and Mr. Allen Mendonca of Times of India. More than 200 people participated. (Press reports enclosed).
Fact-finding team
What BIRD has achieved is something marvelous. At the first round of its meeting with RSS representatives in Bangalore itself the RSS leaders were so magnanimous enough that they assured the Christians that if there would be an attack on Christians allegedly by Hindu activists, they would rush to the trouble-spot along with the Christian representatives of BIRD and help bring peace and normalcy immediately. And they fulfilled that commitment on 19th March by sending a joint fact-finding team led by Dr. Upendra Shenoy to Mysore as soon as the news about the attack on the Holy Family Church was flashed on the electronic and print media world-wide. The report of the team has turned out to be a milestone in peace making. (A copy of the report is enclosed).
National-level talks
BIRD hosted, along with the Christian Alliance for Communal Harmony the 6th round of national-level talks between RSS and Christian leaders at the initiative of Mr. John Joseph, member, National Commission of Minorities, at the United Theological College, in Bangalore on 22 March. It was a roaring success. About 200 representatives of the Christian community from all over Karnataka participated in the dialogue with Mr. Sudarshan and other leaders of the RSS.
On January 20, 2003, Mr. Sudarshan and other top leaders of the RSS, on a short visit to Bangalore invited BIRD representatives for friendly exchange of views and ideas to further strengthen relationship. Prof. Thomas George, Advocate Dr. Vincent Panikulangara, Mr. Derrick Fullenfaw and Mr. P.N.Benjamin spent more than three hours with the RSS leaders.
The result
BIRD is genuinely proud of its achievements in a short span of time. The most important of them all is that we do not hear of any attacks on the Christian community these days in India. The initiatives BIRD has taken to remove the misunderstandings and dispel mutual fears between the RSS and Christian community have borne fruits. The bond of friendship BIRD helped to build between them is strong enough to withstand any future onslaught
Release of Ian Stillman
A deputation consisting of representative of the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue( BIRD) met Miss Uma Bharati, then Minister in the Central Cabinet, on 24 June 2002 and submitted a memorandum to be passed on to the Prime Minister urging his government to release Mr. IAN STILLMAN, a disabled British Charity worker who was undergoing 10-year imprisonment in Shimla jail on charges of possessing 20 kg cannabis, a charge he had refuted. Uma Bharati told the delegation that she was moved by the plight of Mr. Stillman and would do everything possible to free him from the Shimla jail. Later on BIRD was in touch with its friends in the RSS and VHP to use their influence with the Government of India to see that Stillman was released.
As a humanitarian gesture, the Government of India freed fifty-year old Mr. STILLMAN on December 7, 2002 and handed over to the British High Commission officials in Shimla.
Father Harry Stocks
Long before the actual formation of the BIRD, its members had established friendly relations with the leaders of RSS and VHP in Karnataka. Their proven honesty and integrity, credibility and sincerity, in words and deeds, played a major role in February 2001 in getting the deportation order issued to Fr. Harry Stocks, a Canadian Roman Catholic priest, cancelled and his visa extended. Fr. Harry has been working among the deaf in India since 1967.
BIRD has been able to establish contacts with various organizations in Bangalore as well as through the length and breadth of Karnataka and encourage peace initiatives similar to what it has been engaged in the past one year. In Bangalore alone BIRD joins hand with the Temple of Understanding, YMCA, Senior Citizens Forum, Indian Heritage Academy, Institute of Universal Consciousness and Islamic Voice.
BIRD, in order to fulfill its commitment of enabling the process of building up the human values of mutual love, respect and tolerance among people of different faith; has been striving to create a larger mass base with identical value premise. The means and measures adopted include dialogues and campaigns together with evolution of cadres. The interventions made hitherto in these contexts have enabled BIRD to make inroads into a vast area, reaching out to far-flung places of Karnataka State. Notable among the out-reach areas are the District of Bidar, Belgaum, Bagalkot and Dharwar in the Northern region and Kollegal Taluk in Chamarajanagar District in the South. This has become possible due to the identification and sharing of views and visions of BIRD with like-minded individuals and voluntary agencies.The most significant outcome is the initiation of dialogue among different faiths at Belgaum District by "Gram Deep" and "Chetan", two community development organizations .
We are in the process of building an Inter-Fath Centre in association with "Peoples Movement for Self Reliance", another community development organizatiion based at Kollegal , to ensure religious tolerance and communal amity. The very constitution of the governing board of PMSR with two Christians, two Hindus, two Muslims and one Buddhist monk speaks for the steadfast involvement of this group in bringing about the sense of "community oneness" in its constituency.
In Robertsonpet, too a similar movement has taken roots led by Mr. Selvaraj, a Dalit Christian leader working with the State Bank of Mysore.
Meeting with Sri Sri Ravishankar
At the personal invitation of Sri Sri Ravishankar, BIRD’s coordinator spent about an hour with the Guru in his ashram on 15 June 2003. Guru sought BIRD’s cooperation in organising an interfaith-dialogue in the Art of Living ashram in Bangalore at the end of the year.
REPRESENTATIVES of six organisations led by the Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD) came together on Friday, August 8, 2003 to establish a new forum called Youth for Peace and Progress at Dharmaram Vidy Kshetram. The session consisted of mostly lectures centred around peace at a time when the world was torn in strife.
Apart from the six Indian organisations, representatives of university delegations from California and Luwiun participated in the event.
The speakers included some well known names in the reformist and intellectual sphere of Bangalore, including Prof. N.S.Ramaswamy (founder of Indian Instiute of Management, Bangalore and Temple of Understanding). Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan, P.N.Benjamin, coordinator, Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD), M.J.Narendranath (YMCA), Fr. Dr. Mathew Chandrankunnel (Centre for Study of World Religions) and Fr. George Koovakal (Messengers of Peace and Harmony).
Prof. Robert Pomo, Director of Dance and Arts at the University of California, explained how the arts had helped in fostering peace in the troubled regions of Latin America. "We did hundreds of theatre performances on the streets, railway stations, parks…and occasionally, on stage," he said. "The lesson we learnt was to never stop thinking and conversing and always remaining active in the world".
Mumtaz Ali Khan was critical of the Muslim clergy who, he said, had prevented progress. He traced communal problem to a few people who influenced the masses for their own purposes.
Prof. Bert Borkart, Director of Religious Studies at Luwiun University in Belgium, talked about the improtance of face-to-face communication to prevent violence. "I think reciprocity has key value in international relations" he said. He added:"We have to work at a very local level. We’ve established direct links with our community in Belgium and communities in Guatemala. And personal contacts are extremely important. We also have to learn from them, for example on democracy and environment. Latin America is known to have great respect for environment. .Even if you cannot make a difference to India, you can still make a difference to Bangalore".
Prof. Ramaswamy highlighted Hindu contribution to the idea of world peace. "For learning from every religion, we should have an understanding of the essentials and ideals of every religion. This can be the starting point for fostering harmony".
The session was moderated by Fr. Chandrankunnel

Future plans
BIRD has proposed to embark on a three-year programme with four specific programmatic components and they are:
Inter-faith dialogues
That will consider organization of inter-faith dialogues among religious leaders, institutional hierarchies, professionals, service clubs, Non-government organizations, corporate houses, students of schools and colleges
Forum for artists, orators and writers
Organisation of exhibitions, publications and debates on communal amity inviting well known artists, orators and writers and also upcoming aspirants to be able to express their opinion and thus arouse the social concern of the masses.
Campaign for creation of larger mass base
Creation of a larger mass base to be able to embark on a movement approach; where all people could be helped to thing and act alike in one accord with concern and compassion for the fellow being
Cadre evolution
To prepare motivated men and women with skills to organize and monitor peace committees in their respective residential areas and also to inculcate human values among the student community of the local schools
Enrichment of one another’s religious life
2) Mutual respect, understanding and tolerance
3) Co-operation in purifying and strengthening the religious attitude of mind
4) Inculcation of human values
5) Development of love, care and concern for fellow beings
Longing for peace and harmony AND
Concern over personal, social and national problems


Organisation of seminars @ I per month for each of the groups on rotational pattern
Venue @ Rs.1000 + Participants’ food & travel @ Rs.4000 + Incidentals @ Rs.1000
Each programme @ Rs.6,000 X 12 per annum

Organisation of workshop for writers, artists and orators on a quarterly basis
Venue @ Rs.1000 + Participants’ food & travel @ Rs.5000 + Publicity @ Rs.2000 + Incidetals
Each programme @ Rs.8000 X 4 per annum

Organisation of peace rally, publication of hand bills and posters – quarterly basis
Placards & posters @ 2000 + Food & beverages Rs.1000 + PA System Rs.1000 + Publicity @ Rs.1000 + Incidental @ Rs.1000
Each @ Rs.6000 X 4 per annum

30 youth per quarter from villages to be brought to central location (ISI Bangalore) 2 days programme
Boarding & Lodging @ Rs.12,000 + Travel @ Rs.6,000 + Stationary & study materiasls @ 3,000 + Incidentals Rs.1000
Each programme @ Rs.22,000 X 4 per annum

PROJECT COORDINATOR @Rs.10,000 per month



Establishment: rent, power, water, @ Rs.10,000 pm

Furniture & Office equipments

Computer accessories etc @ Rs.2000 per month

Post & telegraph @Rs.1000 per month

Travel l& Conveyance @ 2000 per month

Audit accounts & evaluation@ Rs.20,000 per annum




Legal status
BIRD is a registered Trust. We have applied to the Income Tax authorities for Tax Exemption under 80G of the IT Act and also for the 12A approval.
We shall be grateful if you could please extend your support to the work of the BIRD.
You contribution to our organization may please be sent by cheque/demand draft drawn in favour of: South Indian Bank Ltd A/c Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD), and mailed to:

Coordinator, BIRD,
7, 4th A Cross,
HRBR Second Block
Kalyan Nagar
Bangalore 560 043
Tel. 080 25455716

No comments: